July 29, 2021
Saved by Suffering
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“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18 (NIV)
I woke up on what I thought would be an ordinary Monday a few summers ago, but nothing was normal.
I felt as if knives were mercilessly carving their way through my insides. Waves of nausea left me convulsing and desperate for relief. I tried to step out of bed, but I collapsed and screamed.
My family rushed me to the emergency room, where we all hoped I could find some relief and help. But as panic gave way to desperation, I cried out for God to help me: “Take the pain away! Please, dear God, take this pain away!”
But He didn’t. Not that moment. Not the next. Not even the next day.
His silence stunned me.
My trust in Him in those moments started to feel shaky. I kept picturing Him standing beside my bed, seeing my anguish, watching my body writhing in pain, hearing my cries, but making the choice to do nothing. And I couldn’t reconcile that.
How could God do that? How could He say I’m His daughter whom He deeply loves but let me lie there in excruciating pain?
These are the thoughts and questions that tumbled around my brain during a time of such pain and distress. I think we have all asked questions like this.
Where are You, God?
Do You see me?
Do You care?
After five of the longest and most excruciating days of my life, a new doctor came to my hospital room. He ran one last test. And finally, we had some answers.
The right side of my colon had torn away from the abdominal wall and twisted around the left side. The blood flow was completely cut off. My colon had distended from the normal 4 centimeters in diameter to more than 14 centimeters.
It had been in danger of rupturing when it was around 10 centimeters, at which point I would have felt relief from the intense pain. And it’s at that exact time when many others suffering with this medical situation feel that relief and go to sleep. Their bodies turn septic, and they die.
The surgeon explained that he needed to rush me into emergency surgery, and he’d be removing most of my colon. He was hoping to save enough that my body would eventually function properly again, but he wasn’t sure.
He wasn’t even sure I’d make it through surgery.
And with that daunting news, I hugged my family, prayed with my pastor and was wheeled into the surgical unit. Thankfully, the surgery went well, and weeks later, while I was home recovering, the surgeon called me. He’d gotten the report about the mass that was removed, and there was no further treatment needed. However, there was an alarming part of the report he couldn’t reconcile.
He said, “Lysa, I don’t really like how people throw around the term ‘miracle.’ But honestly, it’s the only word I know to use in your case. The cells in your colon were already in a state of autolysis. This is where your brain has signaled your body to start the process of decomposition. It’s what happens when you die. Lysa, you can’t get any closer to death than that. How you survived this, I can’t explain.”
I hung up the phone, stunned.
And I suddenly thought of those days before the surgery when I was begging God to take away the pain. I had questioned God because of the pain. I had wondered how God could let me be in so much pain. And I had cried because I thought God somehow didn’t care about my pain.
But in the end, God used the pain to save my life. The pain was what kept me in the hospital. The pain was what kept me demanding the doctors run more tests. The pain was what made me allow a surgeon to cut my belly wide open. The pain was what helped save me. Had God taken away the pain, I would have gone home — my colon would have ruptured, and my body would have turned septic — and I would have died.
I now have a completely different picture of God standing beside my hospital bed while I was hurting and begging Him to help me. He wasn’t ignoring me. No, I believe it took every bit of holy restraint within Him not to step in and remove my pain. He loved me too much to do the very thing I was begging Him to do.
He knew things I didn’t know. He saw a bigger picture I couldn’t see. His mercy was too great. His love was too deep. Indeed, He is a good, good Father.
He was not far off like I’d imagined as I lay writhing in pain. He was near. So very near. Just like Psalm 145:18 tells us, “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”
He was loving me through the pain. It was necessary pain — life-saving pain I can see now with new eyes. It’s given me a whole new outlook on times when God seems silent.
His silence was part of the rescue.
Father, You know the heartache and pain we are facing. Help us trust and believe You are not far off but are very close — holding us, comforting us. We know You are good. And we trust You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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